I also have the same question regarding my cat. His name is Spirit and he longs to be outside.
I just moved to a bigger house recently and the property is very big, but there are too many dogs which aren't house dogs so I'm afraid of what they may do to a cat if they see one. Then, there is the fact that cats who moved recently miss their previous home and sometimes get lost trying to go back. It's been a bit more than a month already and he seems to be quite accustomed to the new place, but I'm still afraid to let him go outside on his own.
I also want my cat to go out if he wants because I know that cats usually want to go out and explore the world. I don't want to give him an unhappy life confined to the house when he has such beautiful places to explore. Also, I think that the more he learns to go outside, the more he will learn too how to protect himself, how to climb on a tree or hide when there's a dog, etc. If he's always inside, he will never learn this and some day he might escape and find himself not knowing how to be a cat outside.
Yet, the risk of disease, accidents, or having encounters with dogs makes it hard to make a decision on it.
Yeah, it's a risk. Especially if there are roads nearby. Personally, I wouldn't do it (anymore) and either create a fenced area (which would be my personal preferred option if it'd be possible) or walk him with a leash on or tie a leash to something and make the leash very long, though I'd make sure there's no way to escape, because they can be quite the escape artists. I do understand what you're saying though, they are adventurous, some more than others! And I'm sure sweet Spirit will be happy with any decision you'll make.
I'm not sure if a fence will be enough to keep a cat in, although the one with a little "roof" looks like it may work. But it would be useful to do some research and read reviews about it. Cats are pretty clever creatures and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them learned to climb over it somehow.
I don't have a cat but I have 3 doggies at my family's place. I started to take them for long walks daily when I was there and now they keep wanting to get out. We had to build a new fence as they kept escaping, making us both worried about their health/life and unwilling to deal with unwanted puppies if one of the ladies was in heat and we overlooked it. But seeing how absolutely happy they are whenever we go on our hours' long escapades, how adventurous and curious they are when they're out in the fields with me makes me think about doggie nature and how limited its expression is when they're with us.
But on the other hand, if what Ra said about pets getting an opportunity to progress quicker thanks to being around us is correct then I think it's a fair trade-off for them. Maybe those little pieces of he animal group soul come to us as pets because that limiting yet enriching experience is what they need.
It's a tough choice Yas but like Oxajil said, I think the kitty will be happy whatever you will choose. Each choice will mean different life experiences for Spirit, but that doesn't mean either choice will be the wrong one.